Could calcium help you sleep better?

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Welcome to the third part of our ‘Minerals that help trigger sleep’ series.

Last week we looked at our first trace element- Copper also known as Cu. Those who suffer from insomnia, often have high blood copper levels.

Today, we focus on our second trace element- Calcium also known as Ca.

What is the link between calcium and sleep?

Calcium helps you fall asleep- calcium helps trigger sleepiness by transforming the neurochemical tryptophan into melatonin. Melatonin is switched on by darkness, as it gets dark you start to feel drowsy.

Calcium helps to keep you asleep- calcium contributes to the modulation of sleep states (there are five) and the transition between Non-REM sleep and wake states. Calcium levels surge during REM sleep (a deep sleep state known for its ability to help regulate human emotion, lay down memory and develop judgement). If calcium levels in the body are low then there will be multiple night wakenings due to difficulty maintaining this deep sleep state and transitioning back into the first stage of the sleep cycle.

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What foods are rich in calcium?

Foods that are rich in calcium include diary products such as yogurt, milk and cheese. Calcium is also found in dark leafy green vegetables such as spinach and kale as well as in broccoli and green beans. Other foods rich in calcium include tofu, almonds and canned pilchards. Calcium is found in mineral water and in varying concentrations in municipal water.

William Sears, M.D. writes: "Calcium helps the brain use the amino acid tryptophan to manufacture the sleep-inducing substance melatonin. This explains why dairy products, which contain both tryptophan and calcium, are one of the top sleep-inducing foods."

What supplements can be taken?

Calcium deficiency is a risk not only to your sleep but also to your skeleton. Sleep aside, supplements may be necessary for children, adolescent girls and people over 50 years to prevent the development of osteoporosis.

To avoid calcium being withdrawn from your bone stores, calcium supplementation can occur through meal replacement shakes and/or taking a multi-vitamin and mineral tablet. The recommend daily dose of calcium is 1000-2500mg per day. For calcium to be absorbed vitamin D is required. Vitamin D is found in sun exposure, fortified grains and egg yolks. The recommended daily dose is 15mg of vitamin D per day.

What precautions need to be followed?

As calcium can interact with many prescription medications you may need to ask your pharmacist when to schedule your dose. Here is a table of common prescription medicines and their interactions with calcium.

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